Who: 18-time Grammy award-winning musician, Eric Clapton, 75, and model, and photographer Pattie Boyd, 76.
How They Met: The two famously met while Boyd was married to a friend of Clapton’s, another rock deity you may have heard of: George Harrison.
The legend goes that Clapton was immediately enraptured with Boyd, to the point of briefly dating her sister Paula, apparently to stave his infatuation. He reportedly told Harrison, “I’m in love with your wife, what are you going to do about it?” to which the Beatle member replied, “Do whatever you like. It doesn’t worry me.” (Harrison’s own relationship with Boyd later dissolved, she said, because of his infidelity, notably cheating on her with bandmate Ringo Starr’s wife, Maureen Starkey Tigrett.)
“However hard I tried, I could not get her out of my mind,” Clapton wrote in his memoir, Clapton: The Autobiography, adding that he “coveted Pattie because she belonged to a powerful man who seemed to have everything I wanted.”
Unromantic as that may be, Boyd was won over when Clapton showed her a song he had written about her — “Layla.” In her book, Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me, Boyd describes a clandestine meeting with Clapton, during which he asked her to listen to a new number he had written.
“He switched on the tape machine, turned up the volume and played me the most powerful, moving song I had ever heard,” she wrote. “It was Layla, about a man who falls hopelessly in love with a woman who loves him but is unavailable. He played it to me two or three times, all the while watching my face intently for my reaction. My first thought was: 'Oh God, everyone's going to know this is about me.'”
Though Boyd was still married to Harrison at the time, she wrote, “with the realisation that I had inspired such passion and creativity, the song got the better of me. I could resist no longer.”
The two carried on secretly until Boyd split with Harrison in 1977, and then married in 1979 after Clapton proposed — via a friend. Boyd wrote in her memoir that while she and Clapton were on a “break” after one of his numerous affairs (this time, with a model Boyd had befriended on her own and brought back to their home to stay), she received a call from her friend Rob, who in turn had gotten a call from Clapton in the middle of the night.
"He said he wants to marry you,” she recalled the friend telling her. “He says if you don't want to then, 'On your bike!'”
After ascertaining that the woman he had an affair with was no longer in the picture, Boyd said yes, and they married in Tucson, Ariz. during a stop on his tour.
Why We Loved Them: In their heyday, Clapton and Boyd epitomized the whirlwind musician-and-model-muse relationship trope we know and love. And even though there was turbulence (more on that later), Boyd said she never regretted any of it: "It was like hitching a ride on a shooting star: a fantastic experience that caused immense pain, but I'm glad I had it, she wrote in her book. "And I know I will never have those feelings again."
Not to mention, just look at the style.
When They Peaked: Clapton may have won Boyd over with “Layla,” but it wasn’t the last romantic song he’d write for her. Boyd recalled in her memoir a night wherein the couple was getting ready to go out, and she “couldn't decide what to wear.” Clapton, waiting patiently, was “fiddling with his guitar,” and when Boyd finished, she asked, "Do I look all right?" — and thus, the song “Wonderful Tonight” was born. Tempestuous as their relationship might be, there’s no denying the tenderness in the chords of one of Clapton’s best love songs.
Even Boyd acknowledged it was one of the happiest times in their relationship — “He was so sweet – at least, in the early days.”
“For years it tore at me,” she wrote. “To have inspired Eric, and George before him, to write such music was so flattering. ‘Wonderful Tonight’ was the most poignant reminder of all that was good in our relationship, and when things went wrong it was torture to hear it.”
The Breakup: Speaking of things going “wrong,” in addition to his infidelity, Boyd said she struggled with his drinking before they were even married.
“I was madly in love with him, but as I negotiated Eric's moods and the destructiveness that went with the drinking, I began to wonder whether I had made a mistake in leaving George,” she admitted in her book.
However, what she called the “final nail in the coffin” of their marriage was Clapton’s affair with Italian TV personality Lory Del Santo — who he had a child with in 1986, despite the fact that he and Boyd had been trying for a baby “since we'd first started living together.” Boyd even tried IVF treatment.
“I felt sick. I couldn't breathe properly and my heart was pounding so hard I couldn't think,” Boyd wrote of hearing the news that Del Santo was pregnant. “I heard myself saying it would be all right, we would still be together. I was in shock. I was 42 and had been trying to have a baby for 21 years and this woman had slept with my husband once or twice and was carrying his child.”
(At the time, she didn’t know that Clapton had successfully hidden another affair and baby years earlier — a daughter named Ruth, who he had during an affair with recording studio manager Yvonne Kelly in 1984.)
Upon Clapton’s pleas, Boyd decided to remain in the relationship, partly, she wrote, because she was going through a second bout of IVF treatment. But by 1988, it was reported that the couple was done for good. In April, Boyd filed for divorce.
“I had that wonderful, childlike belief that love would last forever,” Boyd later said about their split. “You don't realize until you live through life that fairytales aren't true. Through my time with Eric, I learnt that women are far more emotional than men and rely heavily on feelings. I don't think men can be destroyed by their emotions. They hold back. I think Eric was like that.”
Clapton, for his part, wrote in his book that “rather than being a mature relationship, it was built on drunken forays into the unknown.”
Where They Are Now: Boyd met property developer Rob Weston in 1991, and after nearly 25 years together, the two married in 2015 in a ceremony at a registry office in London in front of friends and family.
In 1999, Clapton, then 53, met then 22-year-old Melia McEnery and the two quietly began dating. They tied the knot in 2002, and have three children together.
#TBT: Check in every Thursday as we throw it back to some of our favorite celebrity couples of all time.